Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ah, Rest!

After slogging on for an unprecedented 12-week, no break stint, Time Off! Some of you Challenge addicts might be in withdrawal, but the hard-working members of the Crüe welcome the time of respite.

One of the most overlooked components of physical training is rest. It’s an integral part of the General Adaption Syndrome (GAS). I continue to believe that a large number of our die-hards still adhere to the adage: No Pain, No Gain. No one ever got fit without sweat. There is no magic pill or plug-in the wall thing that’s going to take the place of the Work Out. But muscles require rest to recover.

Pain is nature’s way of telling you to back off. DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) comes from microscopic tears in the cellular fabric of muscle cells. Leakage follows with edema, putting pressure on nerve cell endings. Extreme workouts can give rise to rhabdomyolsis, a potentially lethal condition where protein leaks out of the cells and interferes with the ability of the kidneys to process urea. We’ll talk more about rhabdo in an upcoming Blog.

But, back to the rest thing. Periodization is the process of allowing certain muscle groups to recover between workouts. For a muscle to gain strength, it must be stressed beyond the usual daily loading. Power, not to be confused with strength quickly becomes refractory to improvements after fatigue. Depending upon the severity of the workout, one day might not be enough. With advancing age, your recovery curve becomes a lot longer. Ah, the benefits of youth.

Regrettably, without the ability to look at blood serum enzymes, it’s difficult to know where you are. Staleness has some subjective cues, like “how do you feel?” Listening to your body takes some time. If you’re rolling out of the rack in the AM and feel sore and stiff, you’re not ready to pound your body into some kind of submission.

The major risk of overtraining is a susceptibility to connective tissue injury. Muscles can also tear, but because they’re heavily vascularized, they heal quickly, especially if you help out with rest and ice. Anti-inflammatories like Motrin are effective. Tendons and ligaments take a lot longer to repair because they have very little blood flow.

I think it would be interesting to look at our injury rates for this sport and compare them to say, softball. I think that we’re well ahead of that cohort. But it does trouble me when I hear of injuries to our competitors, regardless of where the injury took place. Sometimes its doing an innocuous activity that you would never guess had any risk- like walking up stairs.

The Sportsmedicine model of active rest and light range of motion activity has been proven to greatly accelerate the recovery period. No one who’s doing anything active is going to escape musculoskeletal injuries. We just want to be smart about it and remember that rest is the missing variable in a lot of workout routines.

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